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1383.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2009   
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BIODIVERSITY


Threatened bird and mammal species
Annual area of land cleared
Line graph: Threatened bird and mammal species, 2000 - 2008
Line graph: Annual area of land cleared, 1995 - 2005
For technical information see Endnote 1.

Source: Australian Government
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts,
Species Profile and Threats Database.
For technical information see Endnote 2.

Source: Australian Government Department of Climate Change 2008, "2006 Activity Land Clearing"
Activity Query Table,
Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System.
Between 2000 and 2008, the number of terrestrial bird and mammal species assessed as extinct, endangered or vulnerable rose by 14% from 154 to 175 (of which 69 were birds and 106 were mammals). At 31 December 2008, just under half (46%) of these species were vulnerable, just over one-third (37%) were more seriously threatened (endangered) and the remainder (18%) were presumed extinct. Between 2000 and 2008, there were increases in the number of both endangered and vulnerable species. The rise in species assessed as endangered was higher (an increase of 33%) than those assessed as vulnerable (an increase of 7%). (For technical information see Endnote 1.)

The estimated 333,600 hectares of Australian land cleared in 2005 was 6% more than the 314,700 hectares cleared in 1995. Of the land cleared in 2005, almost half (152,400 ha) was 'forest conversion' (forest cleared for the first time). This was 18% less than the area converted in 1995 (186,900 ha). The annual area of land cleared declined after 2001 but increased again in 2004.

ABOUT THESE INDICATORS

MAP reports on three dimensions of the natural landscape: biodiversity, land and inland waters.

No single indicator can hope to encapsulate biodiversity, so we focus on two aspects: the numbers of extinct and threatened Australian birds and mammals; and the clearing of native vegetation.

Although the number of birds and mammals is only a small part of overall biological diversity, a decline in these groups of species threatens ecological processes and can point to a wider decline in biodiversity. The list of threatened species is not definitive since species can be added to or removed from the list as their status changes or due to improved knowledge (Endnote 1).

Land clearing is a key threat to biodiversity. It destroys and degrades the habitat on which native species rely. Clearing also allows weeds and invasive animals to spread, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and can lead to soil degradation, such as erosion and salinity, which in turn can affect water quality. The land clearing estimates presented in MAP include information about forest conversion (land cleared for the first time) and total land cleared (forest conversion plus reclearing) (Endnote 2).

SEE ALSO

State and territory spreadsheets
The natural landscape: biodiversity - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2006
Themes - Environment & Energy
State of the Environment reporting

ENDNOTES

1. Data have been compiled from schedules to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Under this Act, there are six different categories of threatened species:
  • Extinct – there is no reasonable doubt that the last member of the species has died.
  • Extinct in the wild – the species is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population well outside its past range.
  • Critically endangered – the species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.
  • Endangered – the species is not critically endangered but it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
  • Vulnerable – the species is not critically endangered or endangered but it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
  • Conservation dependent – the species is the focus of a specific conservation program without which the species would become vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered within a period of five years.

In the graph shown, extinct includes extinct and extinct in the wild, and endangered includes critically endangered and endangered. Conservation dependent species are not included in the graph. Migratory species such as seabirds, marine mammals and animals living on islands far offshore are excluded. Subspecies are included.

Extinctions data have been backcast to take account of rediscoveries. There is likely to be a time lag between a species being identified as threatened and being listed. Changes in listings can be the result of taxonomic revisions and improved information from field investigations.

In editions of MAP prior to 2008, the data for this indicator were compiled from schedules to the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 as well as schedules to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. As the two Acts are not strictly comparable, only the latter Act has been used to compile data since the 2008 edition of MAP.

For more information, see 'Threatened species and ecological communities in Australia' on the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts website.

2. Forest conversion is land that has been cleared for the first time and total land cleared includes forest conversion plus reclearing (clearing of land which has previously been cleared). Reclearing only refers to land areas where a conversion was previously identified. Areas in scope of this indicator are those cleared as a result of deliberate human activities. The figures do not distinguish between the type of vegetation (whether native or non-native) that was cleared.

Data for 2006 have not been included as the area of land cleared was not re-estimated for the 2006 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Estimates for 2004 and 2005 should be considered as interim only and will be revised when areas of forest conversion are confirmed in the next update of the National Carbon Accounting System. For further information, see the National Inventory Report 2006 Vol 2 Part A on the Department of Climate Change website.

LINK TO THE DETAILED SUMMARY

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